01 February 2011

Shiny Happy People

Listening to: Phil Collins, "Against All Odds." As a friend duty, I'm compiling a list of my friend's top five karaoke songs. I figure it's a service that will pay off in the near future since we karaoke weekly. During these karaoke sessions I'm introduced to many songs that were once popular but I completely missed out on. So now I associate these songs with my friends, instead of the original artist. I usually prefer my friends' versions. Get thee to a studio, friends, so I can listen to you on shuffle and one track repeat.

During a dinner conversation last week, I commented to someone that he's always got friendship rivalries going on. I noted that there's usually some pair of friends in his life that are either subtly or overtly trying to secure or win a higher place on his friend totem. This got me thinking about how to create your own friend rivalry. But before we get into that, let's talk a few basic types of friend rivalries.

(1) First, there's the equitable friend rivalry. Two really great friends, two equally valuable people who might even play similar roles in your life. The more the merrier you'd think, but for some reason, these two people just can't get along. You've tried to bring them together and to plan some trio brunches but at the end of the day, "any friend of yours is a friend of mine" just gets proved false once again. The niche these two occupy in the context of your life is too small for them to ever get along. Or they're just way too opposite because they survive in independent friend ecosystems. This type of rivalry is usually subtle as neither party wants to smear their own reputation by bad mouthing the other VIP in your life. There's some real intensity here but also some great respect.
NBA Parallel: Larry Bird versus Magic Johnson.

(2) Then there's the one sided rivalry, where a friend thinks h/she's in competition with another friend but in reality, they are so far behind their target that they're never actually in BFF contention. Keep in mind, friend rivalries don't apply just to best friends, it can be for anything. The plus one for a wedding, the extra ticket to that play you scored from work, or the top spot in your phone's favorites list. Feel free to consult the Friend Hierarchy for positions that could be rivalried about. In the one sided rivalry, one person is definitely waging a campaign to take down the other -- friend war is declared and openly discussed. The unassailable friend barely cares about this matchup though because they know they'll win. Think of a sports team who is 30-2 all time versus another team but the media keeps playing it up as a rivalry and often fails. Remember, proximity does not necessarily equal rivalry.
NBA Parallel: Los Angeles Lakers versus Los Angeles Clippers.

(3) The historical rivalry. This isn't what it sounds like. While there could be a lot of actual history for this rivalry, I'm talking more about when one person competes against the ghost of another friend. "Did you ever tell ____ this? Am I the first person to have ever done ____ with you?!" This kind of rivalry is more common than you might think; and awfully common in relationships. There's nothing tangible placing these two figures in competition but one party is so obsessed with what the other one has done in the past, the heights that have been achieved before them, that they are determined to match and exceed it. The hidden tragedy is that they are competing with the past and will have to overachieve by a wide margin in order to combat the halcyon memories of yesteryear.

As the person at the fulcrum of this type of rivalry, it's very easy to milk this for good or for evil. "You know, Brent used to always make sure he got my coffee order right, and he even went back the one time they messed it up. I really liked that about him." I'm guilty of this one quite a bit, as all it takes is a little historical competition for me to be motivated to be a better friend. I'm always gunning for that almost top spot as you should know.
NBA Parallel: Kobe Bryant versus Michael Jordan.

(4) Another very common rivalry is the new kid on the block type. Sometimes when you gush over a new person, the old friend starts to feel a little slighted. "Wait," he thinks, "we used to do that. He used to talk about me that way." This creates anxiety in the old friend as they see the potential threat of this new friend. Don't be surprised if oldie inexplicably turn their noses up at your new friendship or says things like "Whatever, you'll be over that in a few weeks. Let's see how long this lasts."

When you introduce them to each other, the new friend will be super nice and say "I heard so much about you!" while the old friend will likely dismiss them to take a fake phone call. Oftentimes this type of rivalry is mostly hype and only time can tell if it actually evolves into something real. The newbie has to achieve some success that actually bruises the oldie's friend ego before this can properly be called a rivalry.
NBA Parallel: Miami Heat versus Boston Celtics.

(5) Last, there's the hate rivalry. These two friends detest each other. Given the chance, they'd tear each other apart and you have to do your damnedest to not to even mention them to each other. Usually this comes about because the two of them had some sort of falling out and both sides can't believe that you're still friends with the other one. The hate rivalry goes a little overboard and you wish they would just get along so you don't have to panic about having them in the same room at your thirty third birthday or second wedding or something. This type of friend rivalry is not only dangerous all around but also the best for bystanders and media types (aka your other friends).
NBA Parallel: Los Angeles Lakers versus Boston Celtics.

Okay this got way too long so I'm going to save the "How to Create and Maintain a Friend Rivalry 101" for a later post. Maybe I'll bring in a guest writer, my friend who I made this rivalry observation about. A true expert in the field. That would be exciting right?

Actually I'm pretty sure I missed a few broad friend rivalry categories, but there could probably be an infinite number. I will define them all in due time. It's good to make life goals.